Friday 19 June 2020

Donkeys led by donkeys

There are surely times when even Tory MPs must find themselves wondering how they ended up where they are. Well, those with half a brain cell, at least. Earlier this week, they were all issued with ‘lines to take’ explaining why extending free school meals vouchers throughout the school summer holidays was a really bad idea, and many of them loyally took to the airwaves to defend their government. They were enthusiastically at it on Tuesday morning, only to discover by mid-afternoon that they’d somehow misunderstood that when their leader said ‘very bad’ what he actually meant was ‘very good’. Brilliant even; so brilliant that they all now believed passionately the exact opposite of what they said they believed passionately just a few hours earlier.
It’s not exactly the first time it’s happened either – there are a group of Tory MPs who are serial suckers. Perhaps it’s a form of masochism (which is, after all, a practice not entirely unknown on the Tory benches). Whatever the reason, the PM is probably enjoying testing the limits of how silly he can make his own people look. It may continue for some time though, given that there doesn't appear to be any obvious limit on their gullibility. It was only a couple of weeks ago that MPs and ministers were all over the media one morning explaining why it was absolutely impossible and completely unaffordable to scrap the NHS surcharge for immigrant workers in the NHS, only to find out in the afternoon that it was not only not impossible, it was both a sensible and obvious thing to do, and something that they’d all fully intended to do all along. Money? No problem. And then there was the fiasco over voting in the House of Commons when some of them managed to vote for a proposal which they themselves described as utter farce, only to discover that the government largely agreed with them by the end of the week.
Not all Tory MPs took the same position, of course. One of the reasons for the U-turns, in each case, was the growing number of Tory MPs who could see that there might just be a slight problemette with the government’s position and who made it clear, either publicly or privately, that they could not support the government. A cynic might suggest that this, rather than campaigns (especially the one of which he was apparently completely unaware until the day after his spokesperson told us that he would respond to it the following day) by people outside parliament, might have weighed rather more heavily on the PM’s mind. But there were plenty who were more than willing to say one thing at 9am and the opposite a few hours later.
I could almost feel sorry for them in the way that their misplaced loyalty forced them into such contortions. Only almost, mind – if they weren’t so utterly unprincipled in the first place, they wouldn’t have dug their own holes with such enthusiasm. And I’d lay odds that, even as I write, most of them are busily polishing their spades ready for the next time the PM tells them something can’t be done.

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